2002 Draft Recap: Late Round Success

Part three of the 2002 draft moves on to the Tigers late round successes who remain with the organization, including the ultimate late-round gem; Joel Zumaya.

The Tigers came way with the steal of the draft in the 11th round with the selection of Joel Zumaya out of Bonita Vista HS in California. It didn't take long for Zumaya to make a huge impact, as he worked 18 scoreless innings in the GCL. He finished with a 2-1 record and a 1.93 ERA in nine starts. In 37 1/3 innings, he allowed just 21 hits, walked 11, and fanned 46 batters.

His performance was good enough to be named the 15th best prospect in the circuit. Zumaya went to West Michigan in 2003 and he continued to dominate, going 7-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 19 starts. In 90 1/3 innings, he allowed just 69 hits, walked 38 and struck out 126 hitters. His numbers could've been better, but Zumaya missed a month with back spasms and concerns about the roughness of his delivery and future durability began to surface.

Zumaya went to Lakeland in 2004 and struggled with his control, issuing 58 walks in 115 2/3 innings. He still flashed his power repertoire, allowing just 90 hits and picking up 108 strikeouts. For the year, Zumaya was 7-7 with a 4.36 ERA. Zumaya earned a late-season promotion to Erie, but he struggled with a 6.30 ERA in just four starts and he was shut down again with back problems.

Zumaya returned to Erie last year and blossomed into one of the top prospects in the minors. In 18 starts, Zumaya went to 8-3 with a 2.77 ERA. He allowed a scant 71 hits in 107 1/3 innings. His control was still an issue with 52 walks, but he struck out 143 hitters. His numbers were good enough to earn a promotion to Toledo, where he went 1-2 with a 2.66 ERA in eight starts. In 44 innings, he gave up 30 hits, walked 24, and fanned 56.

Despite his great numbers as a starter, some scouts insist that Zumaya may be a relief pitcher because of the effort in his delivery. The Tigers will keep Zumaya in the rotation until he proves he doesn't belong there, and if he does stay in the rotation, the Tigers could have an overpowering pitching staff with Zumaya, Jeremy Bonderman, and Justin Verlander in the future. Zumaya will be given a shot to win a spot with the Tigers in the spring, but he could also use another year of seasoning in the minors.

Left-hander Corey Hamman continues to plug along through the organization after being selected in the 12th round out of Montclair State University in New Jersey. After signing, Hamman had a terrific start to his pro career, as he allowed just one run in 25 innings of work between Oneonta and Lakeland.

He stayed at Lakeland for the 2003 season and had a solid season out of the bullpen, going 6-5 with a 3.32 ERA in 46 games. In 59 2/3 innings, he gave up 63 hits, walked 21, and struck out 46. Despite the solid showing with Lakeland, he was passed over for a promotion to Erie and returned to Lakeland for the bulk of the '04 season. He made 12 starts as part of his 35 appearances with Lakeland, where he went 6-3 with a 4.20 ERA. His numbers took a tumble, as he surrendered 116 hits in just 96 1/3 innings and struck out just 31 batters. He did earn a promotion to Erie, but appeared in just two games for the SeaWolves.

In 2005, Hamman went to Erie and worked out the bullpen, appearing in 45 games (he did make five starts). He went 3-5 with three saves and a 4.29 ERA. Again, he gave up a lot of hits (109) in 92 1/3 innings, but his BB/K ratio was solid at 17 walks to 60 strikeouts.

Hamman has a solid three-pitch repertoire and has touched 94 in the past, but appears to have settled into the bullpen either as a situational pitcher or a middle reliever that can provide innings. Hamman could earn a spot in Toledo's bullpen in 2006, or also return to Erie.

The last member of the '02 draft still left with the Tigers is 19th-round selection Rafael Mendez from Puerto Rico. Mendez received just 59 at-bats after signing and hit just .136 with two home runs with the GCL Tigers. Sent back to the GCL in 2003, Mendez began to show his power, clubbing seven homers in 150 at-bats. He also drove in 25 runs, but hit just .207 with 56 strikeouts. He also swiped eight bases.

Promoted to Oneonta in 2004, Mendez hit .220 with two homers and 29 RBIs in 70 games. He also stole a career-high 10 bases. Mendez returned to Oneonta in 2005, but with the drafting of Ryan Roberson, he found playing time scarce as he received just 113 at-bats and hit .186 with one home run and 13 RBIs. Despite several years of struggling to make consistent contact, Mendez still has a high ceiling, but must begin to put things together very quickly if he is ever going to make his way through the system.

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